Parents ask Tennessee Supreme Court to end school voucher program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – A panel of Davidson County Chancery Court judges on Monday heard arguments in two cases that challenge Governor Bill Lee’s college savings account program that began implementation in August.

Commonly referred to as school vouchers, the Tennessee General Assembly previously passed ESA in 2019, establishing a program for a limited number of eligible students to directly receive their share of state and local education funds, which would normally be provided to the public school system they attend, to pay for education in a private school and associated expenses.

Plaintiffs, parents and community members in Davidson and Shelby counties, argued that the voucher program illegally diverted taxpayer funds intended for public schools in those counties to private schools. They added that the program also violated the Tennessee Constitution and state law by treating residents of those counties differently from their state counterparts.

“My daughter’s public school is wonderful. But it is already struggling to fund textbooks, technology and enough teachers to reduce class sizes,” said plaintiff Roxanne McEwen, whose child is a student at Metro Nashville Public Schools. “It’s wrong to take money away from our public schools – which serve every child that walks through their doors – when they are already underfunded.”

The plaintiffs went on to say that the voucher program would prevent participating private schools from complying with the academic, accountability and governance standards that apply to public schools.

“The state and the other defendants want the court to dismiss this case before the plaintiffs have even had a chance to fully state their claims,” ​​said Chris Wood, partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd. “Our clients have asserted multiple violations of the Constitution and state law that the court has not yet heard or decided.”

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